Email a colleague    

August 2012

Partners in Carrier Management: The Success Story Behind T-Mobile’s Fiber Rollout in Wireless Backhaul

Partners in Carrier Management: The Success Story Behind T-Mobile’s Fiber Rollout in Wireless Backhaul

iPhones and Androids didn‘t create the mobile broadband revolution on their own.  The smartphone market would have never taken off had operators not built out a reliable and cost effective fixed broadband infrastructure to offload radio data traffic.

Back in 2006, the massive fixed broadband infrastructure that exists today to support smartphones didn‘t really exist.  And that successful build out was a culmination of many gut-wrenching decisions, risk-laden investments, and full-scale cooperation from a variety of telecom industry players.

Truth be told, wireless backhaul is the unsung hero of the smartphone’s success.  And here to give us some perspective on how it all evolved is Bryan Fleming, Vice President, Technical Systems and Business Operations at T-Mobile USA, who I met at Razosight’s recent user conference in Washington D.C.

What I love about Bryan’s story is the way he tells it.  Bryan weaves an interesting -- even entertaining — tale that almost anyone in telecom can relate to.  Of course, for people in the interconnect and carrier management areas, Bryan’s first-hand perspective is invaluable.

Among the insights you’ll take away: the reasons for adopting a full-scale fiber strategy; the challenge of finding carriers to support T-Mobile’s vision; the clever techniques T-Mobile used to simplify and cut costs; his expert advice on how to build and maintain great relationships with suppliers; and the key role analytics, assurance and visualization software play in T-Mobile’s current backhaul program.

Dan Baker: Bryan, to begin, it would be great if you could give us some context, perhaps a quick backgrounder on T-Mobile’s situation.

Bryan Fleming:  Sure, Dan.  I guess like every other wireless carrier, T-Mobile USA has seen major smart phone penetration in the past two years.  Our latest figures say there are 11.5 million smart phones in our network.  In fact, 90% or more of the devices we sell today are smart phone devices.  And as you can well imagine, it’s things like social networking, video applications, and instant access to information that’s driving demand.

Another thing about T-Mobile — and I’ve been with the company almost 13 years — is it likes to be on the leading-edge.  We are frequently the first to adopt new innovations, whether it be Android rollouts or apps like wired-enabled autos.

So from the year 2007 forward, we’ve put a tremendous emphasis on trunking and data connectivity to support our heavy wireless usage.

At some point, T-Mobile chose to go “all in” with a full-blown fiber back haul strategy.  What were some of the reasons you went in that direction?

Well, it was back in 2006 and 2007 when we first faced the mobile data tsunami is coming.  What scared mobile operators like us was that if data grew as fast as we expected and users didn‘t pay a premium for it, our business model was going to be turned upside down.

T1 Economics Didn‘t Work

So the only way we could keep up with wireless network growth was through T1 lines, which would have been an unsustainable model.  A T1 gives you 1.5 Mbits and its typical cost -- including associated connectivity such DS3s and OCNs -- was between $350 and $500.  It wasn‘t going to work.

What’s more, the equipment manufacturers were also predicting Doomsday.  It freaked us out.  And when the iPhone launched in mid-2007 we could see all sorts of cost and customer experience problems in our future.

A Fiber Revelation

When we were in midst of this crisis, my boss called me up and excitedly explained that he’d had one of those famous “epiphanies in the shower” that morning.  He was absolutely convinced that the way to solve our problem was through fiber.

Now initially I was very skeptical of that decision, even though that indeed turned out to be the winning strategy.  At the time, the fiber choice wasn‘t so obvious.  In fact a lot of companies invested in the microwave route, but that ultimately didn’t work because you have to spend money over and over again with microwave.

What sort of virtues were you looking for in your carrier suppliers?

Well, we really focused on three key things.


First, we made sure that fiber was available in the majority of sites that meant the most to us.  We wanted to make sure that if we changed vendors or made long-term commitments to the ones we already had that they were committed to improving the reliability of the network.  And the former Ma Bells were reluctant to invest for the future in their old wireline networks — and I don‘t blame them.

Simplify Billing

Our second principle of partnering was around cost.  Not only did we have to stop the upward slope of the cost curve, we had to simplify billing.  Billing is an absolute nightmare.  The best analogy for a TDM network is it’s a big bowl of spaghetti where no one knows which end is which.  It creates a great deal of confusion not only in your inventory systems, but also in terms of auditing supplier bills and managing reliability.

Timely Delivery

We also had to know that our vendors were committed to deliver what we needed on time.  We work on very short timeframes and our mindset was to enable those vendors to deploy as quickly as possible.  So, with these points in mind, we started to engage the vendor community.

What kind of carriers did you approach as suppliers of your next generation back haul?

Well, as you can imagine, our first conversations were with the traditional and incumbent local exchange carriers because that’s who we had our current infrastructure with.

The Incumbent LECs Laughed at Our Plan

In my discussions with the LECs, I don‘t know how many times in that next six months I got laughed at and told, “Good luck, Fleming, but we’re not playing.”  So, I took note of that, jotted it down, and continued on my way.

The Microwave Carriers Step Up

So what we were able to find -- and what you always need when your ecosystem is new and needs to be developed — is someone who believes in your story that data is coming and that there’s going to be revenue growth.

The companies who first stepped up to support us were the microwave-based companies like FiberTower and TTM.  As you probably know, FiberTower currently is in bankruptcy, but back in 2005-2006, they were the first alternative access vendor.  And they made good on their promise to replace the LEC with a better cost and better reliability solution.  Their problem was they did it using microwave and didn‘t fully anticipate the big rollout in wireless data.

A Secondary Business Opportunity for the Cable Operators

Our next question became: who do we look at if the LECs won‘t play and the microwave players can’t keep up?  Well, that’s when we turned to the cable community.  And our pitch to the cable operators was that they had a valuable asset in the ground that they were not fully leveraging: delivering video service to the home was a great business model but there are other growth opportunities there too.  So, our first mover on that concept was Time Warner Cable.  And interestingly enough, as soon as that deal was done, everybody in the cable industry followed at a very rapid pace.

The Former Lunatic Becomes the Most Hunted

Fast forward another 8 to 12 months and we still had no LEC deals.  Every meeting I had with them ended with, “You’re a lunatic -- good luck, you’re not going to be able to get your plan done.” So to demonstrate we were serious, as we began to install fiber with Time Warner, we stopped talking to the LECs and started disconnecting their service.  And sure enough, all of a sudden the “lunatic” in the room became the most hunted because their bottom line was being affected and they realized their business was at risk.  So the LECs came along after that relatively quickly.

And as far as the LEC space, the first mover, if you can believe it was AT&T, and in some cases I would say they are probably one of the most cost effective vendors out there today.

Now while we were concerned with backhaul, a lot of the companies who supply backhaul deliver things other than backhaul and in most cases, backhaul is not their first business.  So we found other opportunities to leverage growth to drive out our costs and find synergies in which to grow together.  That’s really, really important.

Looking back to 2006-2007, roughly 95% of our backhaul network at T-Mobile was supplied by the LEC incumbents.  Today, if you look at our broadband footprint that supports our HSPDA plus network, the LEC incumbents have about 47% share and that continues to decline because there are new providers out there who are aggressive and have a strong capital backing.

Carrier/vendor negotiations can be a fairly brutal experience for the vendor.  Traditionally a lot of pressure is put on the carriers supplying software, hardware, and services.

That’s true.  But on the backhaul business, if you’re out to beat your supplier down to the lowest possible price, it’s not going to work because this is an extremely capital intensive business.  And you want the capital money to be available to grow that ecosystem because those are the things that drive your costs, innovation, and availability.

Knowing the Supplier’s Business Model & Constraints

To successfully negotiate and find a good partner in this environment, you have to understand what your supplier’s business model is.  That’s very critical.  Third thing is open communication: you really have to understand what is important to both parties to find a good deal that works for everybody without risking the relationship or coming away disappointed in what you got.

Each of the vendors will be in a different financial situation.  What kind of capital do they have?  You need to understand that and be flexible.  And what might work from a contract or deal perspective with a large company like AT&T or a Comcast or Time Warner, might not work for a middle or a small tier carrier.

The deal needs to be structured in a way that makes their financial backers comfortable that you are going to be around for a long time for them.  When they are confident of that, then they can offer you the right price.

Open Communications and Commitment

You want to foster creativity.  Instead of working on a traditional contract, there might be some other alternatives out there, but it has to start with open communication.

The fourth thing is being committed to that relationship.  If you hit a bump in the road, just don‘t dump the relationship.  Especially in a growing area like wireless backhaul that you know can only become more complex, you need strong allies in your partners.  As wireless carriers, to be able to deliver that content, the system will have to evolve, and that will require creative solutions that your provider will supply.

Good communications is absolutely key.  Sometimes, they may even want to pull you aside and honestly say, “Hey you’re being an idiot.  You are doing this the wrong way.  You need to listen to me.” So your relationship needs to be open enough for you to get that important feedback.

Another point: your vendor has to succeed for you to be successful.  Now, that doesn‘t mean you will turn the other away if they have issues.  It means you hold them to their commitment and see it through.

Partnering in Other Business Areas

The last thing is partnership.  You may get to the point where the volume of backhaul business you are sending a vendor is leveling out because you’re waiting for that next wave.  At that point you need to think: are there other opportunities to help them continue to grow revenue?  Is it in voice services, is it in internet connectivity, is it doing partnerships with other parts of your organization?  In this way, you continue to get them embedded and make sure that they are as committed to your company success as you are.

What was the end result of your fiber deployments?  What did you achieve?

One of the biggest things we achieved at T-Mobile was to simplify our network tremendously and our basic approach was the “one-throat-to-choke” philosophy.

Providers Responsible for End-to-End Circuits

The way our network is constructed today, I no longer have multiple providers delivering connectivity for one circuit: it is only one provider.  A provider has full responsibility for that.  The great thing about that strategy is that when the bill comes in, I don‘t need to have analysts piecing the puzzle together because the vendor responsible for a circuit is tied back to the cell site location building.  So, it helps from an inventory perspective as well.

Higher Reliability in the Thunderstorm Belt

Another plus is we saw a dramatic reduction in outages because we had fiber based technology.  I remember, during our first storm season in Texas, my ops manager gave me a call and said, “Bryan, you’re not gonna believe this, but the thunderstorm came through and nothing went down!” Our past history was such that as storms rolled through various regions of the country, the antiquated LEC infrastructure or bad grounding caused the network to go down and we had to fight the battle to get technicians on the case.

Costs Under Control

We also found a way to break the cost curve.  Today, as revenue and traffic grows, our costs over the past two years have been flat and in some cases have declined.  Our high-speed data network covers well over 200 to 250 million POPs.  And our HSPDA plus network covers about 184 million POPs, but backhaul is not a problem for T-Mobile.

The other nice thing is that 95% of our data traffic lies on this network, so the customers have a great experience and third party companies have put us right in the top two as far as network quality is concerned.

How does software figure into your strategy of managing carrier relationships?

For me, it’s all about managing the facts.  Many times in the last four years people would come into my office and say, “It’s time to rip those guys out of our network.” But then when you pulled up the facts you’d discovered that those people over-reacted because the vendor only had one glitch.

Managing Facts Efficiently and Accurately

But you also need to manage the facts efficiently and accurately.  When I first started working with the carrier management group, I asked: can you give me my carrier spend?  Three and a half weeks later I still didn‘t have those numbers.  Turns out a bunch of people were trying to work these numbers out on a spreadsheet.

So this is where advanced software comes into play.  My philosophy is: you can‘t have a large group of people whose job is to monitor costs and analytics.  It’s the robots’ job to do that.  The humans‘ job is to make the decisions, get the data, analyze it, and secure it.

So there are some great tools out there.  We like Razorsight because they have the flexibility and willingness to listen and understand the changing environment that the carrier has and are willing to adjust on the fly.

Visualization Drives Productivity

We also like the idea of visualizing data.  If your data is confined to a spreadsheet, you are not going to pick up trends.  I don‘t care if you have the highest IQ on the planet, if you are sitting in front of the computer using an Access database or an Excel spreadsheet with 32,000 lines, you’re not going to get the big picture.  I’m convinced that if you can visualize and get that data in a visual format, it drives productivity.  You can spot trends and take actions sooner.

Service Level Agreement Monitoring

Another issue is I’m getting one time charges.  And we’ll often get a charge for a technician who had to repair my circuits and it was the partner’s fault.  Now that’s fine, and we’ll work that out, but on the flip side, if you as a carrier have made a commitment to deliver to me a certain level of service and quality and you don‘t , I’m going to charge you for it because you are impacting my bottom line as far as my customers are concerned.

We are able to monitor our network in real-time.  That information is fed into our vendor management group, which allows us to check how our vendors are performing.  We also monitor Service Level Agreements (SLAs), which ensures our vendors are taking the necessary corrective actions whether it’s processes or not having enough equipment to monitor things.  And it’s amazing how when you start putting in tight SLAs, outages never seem to happen anymore.

Managing data is really, really critical, so the tools are very important.  We use Razorsight to manage our contracts and look at the addressability of our vendors‘ offerings.  And we use other vendors like Spirient to monitor our SLAs, too.  We also use a visual analytics engine called Tableau.

What is your team worried about for the future?  What are some of emerging challenges in the carrier management area?

The first challenge for us is transitioning the legacy transporter TDM network to all IP.  T-Mobile is one of one of the first movers of this trend and it’s key to reducing our costs.  We have basically ripped out 150,000 TDM circuits out of the network over the last 12 months.  We’re now disconnecting a significant number of DS3s and rings and we’ll continue to do this as fiber gets rolled out.  That one single circuit handles whole voice and data at our cell towers.

The Problem with Provisioning for Peak Speeds

The second thing is that while the backhaul ecosystem is strong, the trends in data and enabling technology, particularly around LTE and future versions of that standard, are going to introduce new problems.  What carriers are doing today is enabling backhaul and provisioning to peak speeds.  But that’s not the best strategy for either you or your underlying carrier in terms of costs and required investment.  That’s because peak speeds are only being experienced maybe 1% to 5% of the time.  So, you basically have a very under-utilized pipe the majority of the time.

The Ever-Shrinking Cell Site

One of the ways to handle that problem is to shrink those cells and get them down to low levels to be able to provide very localized capacity.  Now, there’s a challenge with that strategy because you can‘t afford to put a T1 at every one of these.  You also can’t build fiber to every one either.

The likely scenario is that the macro network will still stay in place but each macro cell, from a capacity standpoint becomes almost a min-MSC.  And it’s now too far fetched to think that those cells will have one to 10 Gig connections in the next three to five years.

So all these problems will require creative and cooperative relationships between T-Mobile and both its carrier and software partners.

Copyright 2012 Black Swan Telecom Journal

Bryan Fleming

Bryan Fleming

Bryan Fleming is Vice President, Technical Systems and Business Operations at T-Mobile.  Over the past several years, he steered operational excellence, robust infrastructure, and state-of-art business processes at T-Mobile USA.  In his role as head of Carrier Management, he oversaw the connection of all 4G cell sites in 1.5 years.  He partnered with internal teams to secure contracts and to source wireless backhaul facilities from other carriers.  He also introduced an industry-first vendor management program with simplfied billing and dashboards to monitor trends and SLAs.  The scale of his interconnect/cost assurance and partner management programs is one of the most ambitious ever conducted in the mobile industry.

Black Swan Solution Guides & Papers

cSwans of a Feather

  • Webinar: From Wholesale Settlement  to Global Partner Management by Dan Baker — A 40 minute webinar providing a sweeping view of the challenges and opportunities service providers face as they try to manage a far more complex wholesale and partnering scene.
  • Partner Settlement: The Adaptable Chameleon that Lives Between Wholesale and Retail Billing interview with Arun Kalavath — Partner settlement has been around a long time, but its profile is on the rise because wholesalers are offering new services and content services are bringing settlements into the retail sector.  In this article, you’ll learn about the market forces changing the wholesale business, the expanded portfolio of services that require settlement, and advice on how to pick a settlements solution vendor.
  • Partners in Carrier Management: The Success Story Behind T-Mobile’s Fiber Rollout in Wireless Backhaul interview with Bryan Fleming — Wireless backhaul is the unsung hero of the smartphone’s success.  This interview with T-Mobile’s carrier management architect for backhaul reveals the behind the scenes game plan for one of the most ambitious wireless interconnect programs ever.  You’ll learn about: the reasons for adopting a full-scale fiber strategy; the challenge of finding carrier partners; the clever techniques T-Mobile used to simplify and cut costs; advice on building great relationships with suppliers; and the key role that analytics, assurance, and visualization software played.

Related Articles

  • Black Swan Guide: Araxxe’s Revenue Assurance Consulting, Testing, and High Definition Billing Analysis Service by Dan Baker — How Araxxe’s end-to-end revenue assurance complements switch-to-bill RA  through telescope RA (external and partner data) and microscope RA (high-definition analysis of complex services like bundling and digital services).
  • Subex’s IDcentral Monetizes Telco & Enterprise Data to Deliver Digital ID & Risk Metric Services for Financing, KYC & More interview with Shankar Roddam — A new digital intelligence service that monetizes the idle data of telecoms and enterprises while also earning a good return for the owner of the data.
  • Opportunities & Obstacles: Consultant Luke Taylor Muses on the State of the Telecom Risk Assurance Business interview with Luke Taylor — A rambling discussion on the state of the risk assurance business with Luke Taylor, independent consultant in telecom revenue/fraud assurance and solution requirements and marketing.
  • LATRO’s Tips for Launching a Successful Revenue & Fraud Assurance Program for Mobile Money Operations in Developing Countries interview with Don Reinhart — A company building mobile money RA/FM tools and  managed services gives a concise, but detailed tutorial on how the Mobile Money Ecosystem works.  Revenue assurance pros will get tips on  what to look for in analytics/assurance tools, controls, and professional services.
  • A WeDo Conference Talk: Consulting & Analytics: Improving your Business Today, Enhancing it Tomorrow interview with Carla Cardoso & Bernado Lucas & Thomas Steagall — Leading risk management consultants explain their mission and walk-through RA, subscription fraud, and collections cases.  They also explain how analytics and machine learning can supplement process optimization.
  • PrologMobile’s Simple and Brilliant Plan to Save US MNOs Billions a Year in Recovered Phones & Retained Customers interview with Seth Heine — An expert in the mobile phone reverse supply chain explains how MNOs — via a neutral third party information exchange — can recover their original phones on the used market and save huge sums in multi-year customer retention.
  • WeDo Explores the IoT Ecosystem in Search of Tomorrow’s Pivotal Fraud & Business Assurance Solutions interview with Carlos Marques — A veteran product manager scans the IoT terrain, discusses key fraud and assurance challenges, and explains the preparatory steps WeDo is taking to become a key player in this emerging market.
  • New Report: Telecom Fraud & Business Assurance Solutions, Services & Strategies by Dan Baker & Luke Taylor & Colin Yates — TRI publishes a new market research report, Telecom Fraud & Business Assurance Solutions, Services & Strategies.  Free executive summary available.
  • Subex Juggles a Wide Variety of Business Assurance and Big Data Analytics Use Cases interview with Rohit Maheshwari — A expert in business assurance solutions explains top use cases such as: IoT security, big data analytics/AI, network asset optimization, multi-player gaming assurance, onboarding mobile subs, and AI customer analytics.
  • MTN Agility: Mastering Exponential Technologies in Revenue/Fraud Assurance and Beyond interview with Danie Maritz & Tony Sani & Luke Taylor — An in-depth look at RAFM operations and innovation at the MTN Group.  Topics discussed include RA/fraud control challenges, strategies, and MTN’s journey to exploit exponential tech (AI, robotics, and ML) in its RAFM program and support of internal non-telco businesses.
  • From Byzantine Software Contracts to Simple & Flexible RA Managed Services interview with Philippe Orsini — Is the way B2B/enterprise software is sold and delivered today progressive — or is it Byzantine in the age of cloud?  An expert lays out the case for managed services in RA and billing verification.
  • Premiere Experts Set to Speak at Summer RAG Conference in London, July 7th and 8th by Dan Baker — The Risk and Assurance Group (RAG) has announced that its 2016 summer conference will expand into a two-day event and feature many premiere experts. 
  • WeDo Hosts Revenue Assurance & Fraud Management Conference in Washington DC by Dan Baker — Black Swan is pleased to announce what looks to be a first class revenue assurance and fraud management conference being put on by WeDo Technologies, on October 1st and 2nd in beautiful Washington DC.
  • Test Call Generators: An Essential Test & Debugging Tool in Mobile Billing Assurance interview with Steffen Öftring — An “active” test call generator (TCG) can see problems that a “passive” revenue assurance system is blind to.  Here’s a discussion on the test call RA  process, over-the-air calls versus core call injection, and test call networks in global roaming RA.
  • The Revenue Assurance Game: How the Rules Change in the Era of IoT & Mobile Broadband interview with Rene Felber & Gadi Solotorevsky — Revenue assurance is perhaps the hardest of telecom functions to define because the term is used in so many different senses.  This discussion on the evolving role of revenue assurance was catalyzed by a survey of experts in the profession.
  • Day in the Life of a Revenue Assurance Analyst interview with Michael Lazarou — Revenue assurance is much more than a software category.  It’s individual analysts struggling to help their larger organizations get a handle on system errors and coordination problems.  In this interview, an analyst reveals the many challenges of getting the revenue assurance job done at a small GSM operator in Europe.
  • Revenue Assurance: History and New Beginnings in RA Maturity interview with Daniela Giacomantonio & Gadi Solotorevsky — The Roman Forum was the center of commercial life in ancient Rome.  Now, two millennia later, the Forum lives on in the exchange of ideas across countless professions and  media.  In this interview, two Revenue Assurance experts discuss both the new RA Maturity initiative of the TM Forum and the value of telco/solution vendor collaboration.
  • Migrating systems or launching LTE next year?  Don‘t forget transformation assurance & optimisation by Efrat Nissimov — System transformations and network migrations are major  revenue impacting events and they should raise a big red flag.  Why?  Because data integrity issues are bound to crop up as CSPs move vital data from a legacy system to something new.  It’s time for transformation assurance.
  • How can Cable/DSL Internet Providers Meet the Usage-Based Billing Mandate? interview with Ryan Guthrie — The popularity of YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu other video outlets has turned the tables on service profitability for cable/DSL service providers.  Many are moving to usage-based billing, but that largely unprepared for the revenue assurance aspects of this move.  This interview explains the technical challenge and points to solutions in billing, speed caps, and traffic revenue monitoring.
  • CABS Revenue Assurance: How Rural LECs can Recover $284 Million in Revenue Shortfalls interview with Kelly Cannon & Darrell Merschak — Independent rural LECs in the U.S. still rely on the AMA/EMI billing formats for CABS billing, even as that format has proven to be highly inaccurate as a source of inter-carrier records.  This interview includes an analysis and discussion of revenue recovery techniques ILECs can use by leveraging SS7 probes.  Also discussed are billing strategies, traffic dumping threats, and the possible fallout from the FCC’s bill-and-keep mandate.
  • Make Business Assurance Progress Every Day: How to Set Goals, Automate, and Energize Your Team interview with Kathleen Romano — Business assurance (BA) skills have wide applicability outside the revenue assurance and fraud mangement domains.  In this article, a telecom executive explains how she’s applying her BA skills in the Payments area.  In addition to discussing the key operational challenges in Payments, the interview also provides keen insights on setting goals in business assurance, leading a team, and making critical decisions.
  • LTE Rollout: Make it a Smashing Success with Risk Assessment, Controls, and Marketing Offer Analytics by Gadi Solotorevsky — LTE brings splendid new capabilities to mobile users.  But like 2G and 3G deployments before, operators can only make money if they successfuly plan, coordinate, deploy fast, and pay attention to pricing plans and the customer experience.  This article lays out a 3-phase tactical guide on  how revenue analytics professionals can add value in LTE service risk assessment, controls, and marketing offer analytics.
  • RA Prevention: How to Manage Revenue Risks and Communicate RA’s Value to Senior Execs by Shaul Moav — The era of revenue assurance prevention and risk assessment is here.  Several of the mature operators of the world have developed their own methodologies and tools.  Using firefighting and fire prevention as a metaphor, the article details a new commercial software approach explaining the goals, method of risk evaluation, and senior executive dashboards developed for the process.
  • Precision Clockworks: How Revenue Assurance Synchronizes with the Business at Swisscom interview with Marco Pollinger — An expert revenue assurance department is one whose work dovetails well with the lines of businesses it supports.  In this interview you’ll learn how Swisscom manages its revenue assurance function for maximum effect.  The article discusses: the operator’s innovative RA organization, the screening and RA approval of new services, its pre-production bill audits, and its coordination with corporate risk management.
  • Versatile, Portable & Corrections-Savvy: Quest for the Swiss Army Knife of Revenue Assurance Software by Mark Yelland — Revenue assurance maturity models are not cast in stone.  Since  best practices will change over time, it’s healthy to explore moving maturity models forward.  For example, great gains have been made in leakage detection, but RA corrections has been harder to master.  The author dreams about seven functions that should ideally come together in a single all-purpose revenue assurance software tool.
  • Bringing Strategic Planning & Value Engineering to Revenue Assurance interview with Maged Fawzy — Engineering and architectural techniques have a role in revenue assurance.  This interview with a top Egyptian RA consultant explains how continuous risk assessment and long range — yet flexible — RA planning can sharpen a carrier’s RA program and lead to better use of revenue assurance software and integration services.
  • Forensic Fossils: Is Your Revenue Assurance Shop Fit for Display at a Natural History Museum? interview with Jim Marsh — Without the continuous guiding light of seasoned revenue assurance leaders, even the best teams of RA professionals, technology, and business processes can fossilize and lose their vitality.
  • Revenue Assurance: The Magical Market Cap Multiplier by Van Howard & Curtis Mills — Many operators today consider revenue assurance yesterday’s opportunity.  But this article shows why significant revenue and cost leakage can still go undetected, even in companies with dedicated RA departments.  Also discussed are the benefits of a broader or more “forensic” approach to revenue assurance, an approach that boosts the bottom line regardless of the automated tools already in place.
  • From Risk to Robust: Turning the Big Picture Into a Real Agenda for Change in Telecoms by Eric Priezkalns — Inspired by a Financial Times article written by Nassim Taleb, author of “The Black Swan”, here is an insightful and entertaining primer on telecom risk management.  The article takes ten risk management lessons from Taleb and applies them specifically to the communications industry.  You’ll learn about the value of small scale trials, organization accountability, cures for a blame culture, incentives that work, the power of simplicity, and more.
  • Synthesizing the Telecom Business Assurance Practice With the Analytics World by Dan Baker — Business assurance is a wrapper term that allows you to draw a circle around various telecom assurance, control, and optimization activities.  This article maps business assurance as a subset of telecom analytics, constrasting it with marketing analytics while a diagram shows where biz assurance fits in the larger B/OSS world.
  • CABS Revenue Assurance Disputes: May the Carrier With the Best Data Win by Cheryl Smith Rardin & David West — Revenue assurance innovation is far easier when partners cooperate to make it happen.  This articles shows how a U.S. operator, software vendor, and consultant teamed to develop a breakthrough in Carrier Access Billing (CABS) assurance.  Learn about: the dispute resolution data gap that needed to be filled, the partnering strategy, the implementation challenges, and payback results.
  • Revenue Assurance vs.  Business Assurance: Who’s the Rightful King of Controls Software? interview with Sergio Luis Silvestre — Business controls software, originally developed for RA, is finding application in other areas of the business such as internal audit, collections, security and risk management.  This article argues that “business assurance” is the best term to describe this broader set of  controls software that can find a home in numerous departments or functions of a CSP’s business.
  • PwC on the Business of Revenue Assurance Consulting & Mentoring interview with Tim Banks & Dan Stevens — Revenue assurance consulting firms offer a broad range of services to clients these days.  The article explains the practice of mentoring RA mangers and providing a CFO with visibility on the status of an operator’s business controls.  Perspective is also offered on the value of RA software and the opportunity to broaden the RA practice scope.
  • Robots for Hire: Verifying Accuracy In the Age of Complex Mobile Billing/Charging interview with Xavier Lesage — As real-time charging and complex lifestyle calling plans gain credence across the globe in wireless, billing quality issues will rise in importance.  This article discusses a unique managed services approach to invoice testing and roaming fraud protection that checks results against advertised or published source data for the utmost accuracy.
  • Ericsson: Revenue Assurance Consulting With an NGN Flavor interview with Thomas Steagall — Helping operators detect billing and provisioning problem is merely table stakes in the RA services business these days.  The article discuss why operators need to ramp up their RA function with service experience and group-wide financial health monitoring.  Advise is also offered on: key RA maturity questions, risk-and-reward contracts, and how to extract greater value from software investments.
  • Do-It-Yourself RA for Small Operators and MVNOs interview with Mark Yelland — Budget-minded small operators and MVNOs are no longer hamstrung in RA capability anymore.  This article offers high-leverage strategies for operators who cannot afford expensive RA software tools.  With  data access, brains, and a DIY philosophy, any small operator can map a  path to greater RA savings, maturity, and program growth.
  • Revenue Assurance Maturity: Report From the Arena interview with Eric Nelson — Revenue assurance maturity can‘t be easily computed.  How do you  compare the KPIs of Comcast billing with that of mobile money RA in Western Africa?  Even still, this article offers some universal RA wisdom from a straight-shooting veteran of carriers large and small.  Topics discussed include: dashboard or process, COTS vs. inhouse solutions, and tips on gaining internal support for the RA practice.